Michael A. Allowitz’s direction in the teaser, or perhaps more credit is due to the editor of “Promised Land,” was effectively jarring. The Travelers took Stefan and Elena at the end of last week’s episode to drain more of the blood to use in the spell that’d break the magic spell and eliminate witches’ powers, the vampire magic, the hybrid magic, and all that fun. Markos cuts Elena deeply in the wrist, four days into the blood-letting, because she wants her to bleed until she can’t speak. The woman from last week that tried to kill Jeremy in act to save her boyfriend’s life frees Stefan and Elena. The teaser of the episode, before their freedom, sets the tone and atmosphere of the episode. Nina Dobrev impressively portrays Elena’s dizziness, increasing weakness, etc. The sound of blood dripping from vein down arm into the bucket below where she stands (and where Stefan lays, in another room) adds to the ‘off-ness’ of the scene, because TVD’s not notable for its sound editing. The slow dripping of their blood matches their slower ability to react, and to be what they are when full of blood. So, all around, it effectively established the tone and the tenor and the mood of “Promised Land.”
And “Promised Lands” includes fulfilled promises. Markos promised to re-balance the magic, to find his Travelers a home, and to kill the vampires, along with stripping the witches and any other supernatural folk of their magic. Markos succeeds in getting two full buckets of doppelganger blood. He finds his Travelers a home—the Salvatore home. Damon’s plan to lure him in with the bodies of those body hijackers under threat of burning them all turns into a house tour for Markos. Markos is more interested in remodeling the home than he is in losing his Travelers’ original bodies. The cosmopolitan-looking bearded villain of the fifth season puts a knife in his own guy’s neck to show Damon his master plan does not require his people returning to their bodies. Damon grimaces and then proceeds with the house tour, which was kind of great.
Markos exudes control and power. The spell begins with him at Damon’s and continues during his tour of the Salvatore wine basement. The other characters feel desperate and hopeless. The twin witches feel desperate and hopeless. So, the twin witches try to murder the doppelgangers. Killing one doppelganger stops the spell. The twins, and the coven, keep their magic. Nothing changes. The twins kill Maria—the doppelganger’s rescuer and also the hope of the other side until the black void sucks her in—and fail to kill the doppelgangers. Elena hurts Liv’s wrist. She quickly leaves with Stefan because outrunning the spell keeps them alive longer. Stefan understands the situation well. He’s self-aware, empathetic, and even empathic. He senses what ails his brother and Elena. A staple of a soapy teen drama—supernatural or not supernatural—when two destined-to-be-together character separate, when one wants to be with another, the opposite soul mate gives his or her—usually his—blessing to the woman he loves to follow her heart. Stefan encourages Elena to be with Damon, explaining to her that she and Damon are miserable without each other. Elena receives unnecessary permission from her soul mate, which is important because of later stuff. The spell reaches Elena, Stefan, and Damon. Each experience dying all over again once the magic disappears around them.
Caroline freaks out while packing for the summer’s move away from the dorm, lest the girls stay too late and receive a fine from the college for staying too long. The girls could’ve applied for extended housing. Caroline insists a fine matters less than saving Bonnie’s life. Bonnie can’t focus on how to fix the other side. She’s down, but she also thinks. Of course, the plans of the gang fall apart. Damon’s body-burning threat didn’t cause a flinch from Markos, and Bonnie’s idea to use Maria’s memory of the spell that brought Markos back fails because of the aforementioned black void suck hole. The Mytic Falls crew are vulnerable for the first time in the series. In past seasons, the crew have been weakened and at a disadvantage; however, the existence of magic in any series results in a reliance on magic. Over-plotting characters into impossible situations can resolve through magical magic, that magically convenient and cheap device. The gang can’t fight what’s happening with a spell or something else Bonnie pulls out of the air. For a fifteen minute stretch, the Travelers’ win.
Of course, the penultimate episode is penultimate episode. The avalanche of snow speeding down the mountain without anything to stop it will stop in the season finale when a magical wall drops from the sky to stop the snow. Happy ends are the norm on network television. If the writers opt against a totally happy ending, stability, instead, or a measure of stability, is restored to the show. Things must re-set, somewhat. Incoherence coheres. Julian rips Stefan’s heart out at the end of the episode, stopping the spell. Sad Stefan approaches Bonnie on the other side, hopeful she found a way to bring everyone back from the other side. She didn’t, and Stefan remains sad. Death means less than a Damon/Elena breakup. Order will restore. The Travelers will burn. The brief disorder and chaos of a magic-less world, with the dead dying, and the witches looking like idiots with their hand placed in a 90-degree angle instead of powerful, was terrific fun. Oh well, it’s over--now onto the finale.
-Rebecca Sonnenshine wrote the episode. Michael A. Allowitz directed it.
-The best Damon line was his reaction Markos’ description of the Travelers as sad, weary, and in need of home: “You just described the homeless, aging hipsters, and Matt Donovan.”